Summary: “for me to live is Christ. To die is gain” (Philippians 1). But for those who have no such relationship to Jesus, the end of the world is destruction of everything they hold dear. It is the end of all that matters. It is, truly, dreadful.
Revelation 6:12 and I saw when he opened the sixth seal, and there was a huge earthquake, and the sun became black like sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became like blood,
13. And the stars of heaven fell to the earth, like a fig tree throws off its figs when shaken by a powerful wind,
14. And the skies were rolled up like a scroll (book), and all of the mountains and islands were moved out of their places.
15. And kings of the earth and great ones and the military commanders and the rich and the servant and the free man hid themselves in caves and the rocks of the mountains,
16. And said to the mountains and the stones “Fall on us and hide us from the face of the one who sits on the throne and from the face of the Lamb,
17. for the Day has come and his anger is great, and who can stand?”
v 12 The Earthquake typically speaks of the awesomeness of God’s presence (Exo. 19:18; Is. 2:19; Hag. 2:6). The loss of the light of the sun and moon is often spoken of in Scripture in the context of the Day of the Judgment of the Lord (Is. 13:10; Eze 32:7; Joel 2:31; Amos 8:8; Mk 13:24; Acts 2:20).
v 13 The stars falling look very much like meteorites (Is. 34:4; Matt 13:25-26.
v 14 The picture as heaven departs is one of a papyrus roll which has been opened. if it were pierced in the middle and broken, it would roll back together on both sides. The mountains move as God’s judgment falls (Is 40:4-8; Nah 1:5; Jer. 4:24; Luke 3:3-6).
v 15 Kings have ultimate authority, great men (princes were next. The chief captains were those in the Roman army with the responsibility of calling the troops to battle (Is 13:7-8; Mal 3:2). People fled to caves to hide from God’s judgment on a number of occasions in Scripture (Is. 2:10, 19, 21; Hos 10:8; Lk 22:30).
v 16 They cry “fall on us” as the prophets predict at the day of God’s judgment (Hos 10:18; Luke 23:30
v 17 God’s wrath is not merely an Old Covenant concept (Rom 1:18; Rev 19:15; Mk 3:1-5 (wrath is translated anger) Isaiah 13:9-13; Eze 7:19; Zeph 1:15-18; Rom 2:5).
A Different Kind of Meteor Shower
Every year around December our planet passes through the Leonids-a group of mostly small space rocks that create a magnificent light show for those who are in places dark and clear enough to see them. Several years ago I was singing in a conference in the mountains of Arunachal Pradesh in December. The Leonid Light Show was spectacular in those mountains, removed from the lights of the city, in the clear, cool, crisp skies of winter. You could see a “shooting star” at the rate of at least a few a minute. I spent all the time I could just looking up at night and enjoying. But what would happen if some of those space rocks were a bit bigger?
Nasa now tracks a few thousand asteroids on near earth orbit that, if they were to collide with our planet, have the potential to cause the next great extinction. Something like this, maybe a comet that has split into several pieces, seems to be what John sees as the world faces the end of human history. Jesus said we’ll see wars and famines and diseases, but these would not result in the end of human history (Matthew 24). The end, surprisingly, will not be a direct result of our mistakes. According to the Bible, the destruction of our species will come from the sky. So, how do we meditate on such passages and bring away an uplifting message?
Look up! for your destruction draws near.
There are two messages here. One is to those who hear Jesus’ words and do them (Matthew 7, Luke 6). For us, who follow Jesus wherever He leads, the idea of the end of this world doesn’t sound so bad for at least two reasons. For one, our lives, as Hobbes infamously quipped, can often be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”. We are like a vapor that comes in the morning and is gone in the evening, like the steam from a cup of tea, and even for the most beautiful among us, like the blossom of the Bethlehem Lily. This does not diminish the wonder of our existence, but the reality of our brevity should keep us from clinging too tightly to the things of this world. Second, we look forward to a better country, one God has been working on since the Ascension of Jesus (John 14). For us, the end of this life is the beginning of a much more wondrous eternity. As Paul said, “for me to live is Christ. To die is gain” (Philippians 1). But for those who have no such relationship to Jesus, the end of the world is destruction of everything they hold dear. It is the end of all that matters. It is, truly, dreadful.